In 2015 I had the good luck to be in Seattle for a week in mid August. Of course I packed my skateboards. I had read up about the nearest skatepark I could push to (my hotel room was downtown, not ideal by the way) which was the Seattle Center Skatepark. A tight but wicked cool park with plenty of fun. I can talk about the features but the pictures do them justice (and a quick search on the interwebs turns up good footy). What was more fun to me were the people I met. I had never been to Seattle before so I didn't know what to expect. What I found surprised me, the locals outside of the downtown area, especially the fringe, I found to be extraordinarly interesting.
It was probably 6:30 AM when I got to the park and did some warm up pushes when a young guy, early twenties, showed up with a backpack and skateboard. We talked a bit and I got to hear his story. He was a drifter with a board that had definitely seen better days. He was up from Portland and basically living in shelters or out on the streets. What surprised me, due to my ignorance, was how clean he was. I told him about myself, I was visiting for work and wanted to shred. He was super nice, super gnarly and a good skater. He had to give it up by 7 AM though because his ankle was hurting. He pushed away and was replaced by a super quiet high school kid who skated up into a corner, smoked a bone then left waving as he went.
The second morning I met another traveler like me from Ohio. Dang good skater, young and styled out. I think he was a mechanical engineer of some sort who was at a conference about vacuum cleaner design (or something like that). We talked about the relative cool factor of Seattle and compared parks from our own home bases. I determined I had better parks but he had better streets and spots. Call it a wash. He spent most of session trying to tail slide a ledge and finally nailed it: I even took footy for him with his phone. Just when I though the guy had had enough he wanted to beat the sticker mark on the glass square (check it out in the photo of me trying it .... badly).
I was good with fakieing back down I wasn't doing a revert on that glass, not this guy, he wanted a revert and he wanted to beat the high mark. He eventually got it after a lot of board shooting. I was wiped out and sat down at the benches to watch him when a homeless woman came up and sat down next to me. We had a great conversation about the awesome weather - she offered me a sandwich she had gotten at a shelter (I declined) and once again I was amazed at how clean she was. But it was time to go so off I went to work stuff.
The third morning at the skatepark was by far the best. This was when I met Jeff. I remember his name. I remember his story. And I finally got some answers to a few questions I had. Jeff walked up and sat on the bench by the skatepark carrying a bag full of his posessions. He waved at me and smiled and I went over for a break and got to know Jeff's heartbreaking story. Jeff had succumbed to addiction. He was a painter who had taken a fall. He lived and worked in Georgia somewhere outside of Atlanta (I think). He got hooked on pain pills but when those ran out he turned to heroin. Jeff told me, in a sort of sad voice, that Georgia doesn't help people like him. He was 50 years old then but looked maybe early 40s. Jeff managed to scrape some cash together and came to Seattle where he'd heard he might be able to get help.
I can relate to Jeff. I told Jeff my story. Jeff asked me to show him the bottom of my deck, which I did, it was my Antihero foreclosure deck as seen in the photo. Jeff then commented to me this why he loves us skaters. We get it. Jeff informed me that homeless shelters abound in Seattle and they have public showers. So that mystery was finally solved. It was time for me to head out so I did.
When I got to the park I was surprised to see a dude on a town bike riding around the park. I wasn't surprised to see a bike, I was surprised to see it wasn't a BMX or MTB style bike. Then I thought screw it, why not? I struck up a conversation with him and it turns out this dude is the drummer for the band Girl on Fire. Now I was all set, I am an audiophile and we had a lot to talk about. He told me his story too, how he started out doing whatever gigs he could until he scored with Girl on Fire. Then I got a lesson on why bother having an apartment if you are on the road all the time?
The last morning I was skating in Seattle Center Skatepark was definitely interesting. I met a fella who shucked oysters for a living and had moved to Seattle from Florida exclusively for the skateparks and skate culture. That blew me away. He was a super nice guy who taught me the trick to getting over a weird spine in the park (which I have since forgotten). He had to get going though off to his tough job (and that is rough to do all day). Then it was time for me to go, I was pushing my way back out of Seattle Center when I saw Jeff again. Jeff walked right up to me and I asked him how he was doing. Still clean, he had found a place to live and had a lead on a painting gig. I was thrilled for Jeff, I shook his hand and wished him the best of luck.
I still think about those people, especially Jeff, and I often wonder how they are doing today. If they made it, if they are okay? I would like to think so. Who knows? All I know is I liked it. I liked being able to push and not be scrutinized. I liked being anonymous yet still able to strike up conversations with people. And I found the most interesting people were all on the fringes.